Religion, Beliefs, Blogs…

…Faith, God, Prayer…

It sounds like a list of tags, but they are themes that I seem to come across often in the blogs that I read.  I don’t have an issue with this, I just find it interesting how much and how many people publicly talk about these things.  I don’t know why it surprises me because since moving to Utah I have had more conversations about religion and faith than I probably have ever had before.  Sometimes I feel like any time you meet someone new out here the conversation inevitably turns towards religion at some point.

I consider myself to be a practicing Jew and I align myself with the conservative movement.  I feel like I have a pretty good Jewish education that probably stems mostly from the ten summers that I spent as a camper at a Jewish summer camp.  I enjoy going to synagogue, I help lead services, and I like to expand my knowledge base.  I am by no means an expert, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on most of the concepts.  I don’t let my religion dictate my life, but it certainly does influence some of the things that I do from day to day.

One of the things that I find most interesting are the cases where people “find” religion or faith as a result of dealing with something in their lives like an illness or death or something.  The question that it brings to mind though, is: “What is religion doing for you now that you have ‘found’ it?”  I firmly believe that people who convert to a religion make “better” members of the religion than people who were born into it, but how do people who find religion compare?  What is it about a person’s situation and their seemingly passed over religion that draws them back to that religion?

There is certainly nothing wrong with finding religion and taking what it offers.  One of the biggest things that religion gives people is a sense of belonging.  Religion is the foundation for many great communities, communities that support their members when they are in need.  At least I hope that is the case!  I certainly have been happy to find such a strong, albeit small, Jewish community in Salt Lake City.  I mean this is one of the only places in the world where a Jew could be considered a gentile!  the Jewish community here helped me out when I was new to the area, made me feel at home, and it still does.

Personally I find it interesting to discuss religion even though there are some aspects of some religions that I don’t agree with and really just don’t make sense to me (sometimes religion in general falls in that category).  Sometimes I find the people who say that god or Jesus gave them the power to go on a little hard to swallow, but if their faith gave them something to grab onto to keep going, that is a good thing.  Everyone, no matter where you live or who you are, should have the right to believe whatever they want.  This of course is not the case, but it should be.  However, it should be noted that the flip side of that sentiment is that no-one has the right to tell someone else what to believe.

It is the issue of what you believe and what you think other people should believe that is the source of much of the contention in the world.  There are too many people who think that what they believe is the only answer and they insist that everyone else believe the same thing.  I live in a city filled with people who believe just such a thing, it is literally their mission to bring as many people as they can into the fold over the course of their lives.  Their rite of passage is to go on a mission somewhere in the world to spread their faith.  What gives them the right to tell another person that said person’s beliefs are wrong?

Personally, I think that the best stance to take with religion is that there is no reason to insist that yours is the right one or the only one.  If there actually is a right and wrong religion then in the end, everyone will figure it out!  No need to try to shove it down my throat now when it is really impossible to know if there is a right and wrong at all.

So where does all of that leave me?  I am not entirely sure how I got here on account of I just kinda put my thoughts out.  I have been intrigued at how god and religion seem to play an important role in many people’s lives, or at least the parts of their lives that they blog about.  My religion and beliefs certainly play an important role in my life and they have made me who I am today, I have just never felt like some divine force is leading me through life.  I don’t challenge what anyone believes, they have the right to believe whatever they want and I respect that.  I just find it interesting to see what people believe and how it affects and drives their lives.


  1. I like your thoughts Alex and I'm sure that living in Utah is a shocker on how so many members act and it drives me crazy. I really see that in your comment on converts so many that I have met are better members of the LDS faith. As I have grown up in the church what made me a better member was leaving Utah. I'm not perfect and I hope to grow as a person everyday and for me having faith helps me.
    Now as for what the church believes on other religion here you go:
    11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    A good missionary will remember this. Sometime members just don't!

    • In hindsight I suppose I do sound like I come down kinda hard on the LDS Church, which I don't mean to. I think that was one of the reasons that I didn't actually mention it by name. Really, it just happens to be an easy and prominent example when you are living here! I find it interesting that the first ideas that tend to slip from many "religious" people's minds are the ones like what you quoted, that people have the right to believe/worship in their own way.

      On the topic of conversion. One of the cantors (member of the clergy responsible for the musical aspects of services and such) that I studied with was a convert to Judaism. Amazingly knowledgeable person in Jewish knowledge besides the fact that he had become a member of the clergy. In Judaism we are actually supposed to turn a person away three times before they can begin the conversion process. I believe that this has to do with making sure that they are actually willing to take on all that goes with being a Jew. Interesting stuff!

  2. Since you've been creeping around my blog (ha! sorry – I am really having fun at the expense of the male gender today!), you may have noticed that I have a few posts with "faith" tags and that I am slowly finding my way back to religion. I wouldn't say I "found" religion (because my grandad is a minister, so I definitly grew up in the church – I just strayed for a number of reasons), but when my health problems started I absolutely found myself turning to God more than I would have ever thought I would. I was pretty resolute in my decision to not be involved in Church, so now, to be going every Sunday and to be involved in an indepth bible study, is a very weird shift. I would try to answer your questions about what religion has brought me in times of turmoil (and how the times of turmoil brought me to religions door), but I don't know that I can really put it into words.

  3. What I can say is that after my last surgery (when I was told I would never conceive naturally, and would possibly never conceive at all – even with interventions) I was a mess. I was angry and sad and I couldn't pull myself out of it. I walked into a church as a very last resort, thinking it wouldn't do an ounce of good and that it was a stupid thing to try, but I was overwhelmed with myself and my reaction. I was willing to try anything, and so when an acquaintance suggested church, I figured I had nothing to lose. I was shocked to find I felt better that day for the first time in weeks, and I just kept going back.

  4. There is some peace in relinquishing control to Him. In saying "take it, I don't know what to do with it, so just take it". I still get all worked up about my situation, but I feel more comfort in knowing that He has a plan. Like I said, I didn't actually "find" religion, because even though I didn't go to church I had always considered myself spiritual and had never questioned the presence of a higher being, but I definitely found church and through that I am slowly redefining my relationship with religion. It does make me feel like a fair-weather fan though, and like I'm only here because I am at a low point and need help. I'd like to think that's not the case, but I don't think I would be where I am with faith now if I hadn't hit rock bottom.

    It's possible none of that made any sense.

    • There re probably many points in religion that I really take for granted. I have always seemed to find a home in going to synagogue or studying Judaism or going to a Jewish summer camp. It is probably for that reason that I find people who convert, find, or even just rekindle their faith interesting. I don't think that your situation makes you a fair-weather church-goer. If you feel like your current situation has opened up a two-way connection with you and Him (in that you are becoming more active in the church community and you are getting something from it) then your faith and your religion is doing what it is supposed to do (in my humble opinion).

      From my perspective, I know many people who only attend services at the synagogue on the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur) or when they are commemorating a Yahrtzeit (the anniversary of the death of a loved one), or when there is free food involved (Jews always come together for free food!). The irony that I see is that often, many of these people are the big donors, and often those donations are monetary and not giving of themselves. Because of this they are the people who are given honors and have positions on the board or are selected for committees. Then you have the people like me, who give of themselves, help lead services when we have no Rabbi, prepare the baked goods for the receptions after services and such who go under the radar more often then not. However, it is the people who find a connection, who give of themselves, and who go with little recognition that are really getting something from and giving back to their faith.

      So, here I have rambled on in a not-quite-on-topic response to your comments. My real point is that if you have found a connection that gets you through life, that is what counts!

  5. Totally makes sense! I AM a little bitter that you were able to post all your ramblings into one comment, and the system made me break mine up into 3!

    I am far too wordy and I never fly under word count radar… It's an issue!

    • I'll have to look into the limit on your comments. I am testing some of the third party comment systems. so it is good to know where there are issues. I will have to see if that is a setting I can change or what.

    • Actually, after doing a little research, it could be on account of your web browser. If you are using Internet Explorer, it sounds like many IE users have experienced similar post limits. Not that you should change browsers just to comment here, but that might be the problem and if you have a minute to test and see if everything works right in a different browser like Firefox, I would really appreciate it!

      And now back to your regularly scheduled program!

  6. I don't think that I expect to believe yet not believe at the same time. I think that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, whatever they may be. What I am against is the people who insist that what they believe is right and that everyone who doesn't believe what they believe is wrong. I am always fascinated to talk to people and try to understand what they believe and how they believe because I think that not only does it make me more respectful of others and more educated about other belief systems, it strengthens my understanding of my religion and beliefs.

    I also think that one of the major contradictions in religion is around the idea of a "divine force guiding us through life." Why? Well, the Torah or the First Testament tells us that God gave us free will, the freedom to make our own choices. So, if that is really the case then there can't really be a divine plan for one's life since one can choose the paths that one follows.

    Now, this is not to say that my beliefs and the foundations of my religion do not provide a grounding for my life. In reality they do. I know that there are things that I consciously choose to do or not based on my religion. I believe As a Jew, one of the major things that we are taught to do is question and discuss. While there are many things that are taken as "laws" there are many that are open to interpretation and are discussed thoroughly.

    Religion tells us how to be good people, and how to contribute to society. Every religion on the planet is based on those principles. The difference is in how we get there. Religion is about building a connection with something greater than oneself.

    The goal was to get the brain juices flowing, one of your recent posts did that for me, so check back here tomorrow!

  7. This post was really interesting. The only thing I don't understand is why let religion be just a part of your life? Then what's the point? Like, you said that you don't believe some divine force is guiding you and you don't revolve your life around your religion…

    Then, what's the point of "believing" to begin with?

    I'm a Christian. I don't shove my religion down other people's throat. But if they ask. I'll explain why I believe. But if I didn't believe that through Christ is the only way to truly live and have peace, then I sure as hell wouldn't be a follower of Christ… I'd be figuring out the real Truth.

    But alas, I DO believe Christ is the Truth. But I'm not shoving it down your throat, I just wanted to explain that it is a bit irrational to expect people to believe yet still not believe at the same time.

    It's a contradiction all by itself.

    Nice post. It got my brain juices flowing.

    • I don't mean to sound like people should believe yet not believe at the same time. Everyone should be able to believe whatever they want to believe or whatever they feel is the right thing to believe. We don't however have the right to tell other people what they should or shouldn't believe. I really only have an issue with people who think that what they believe is right and that everyone else is wrong.

      I think that one of the major contradictions in religion is around the idea of a "divine force guiding us through life." Why? Well, the Torah or the First Testament tells us that God gave us free will, the freedom to make our own choices. So, if that is really the case then there can't really be a divine plan for one's life since one can choose the paths that one follows.

      Now, this is not to say that my beliefs and the foundations of my religion do not provide a grounding for my life. In reality they do. I know that there are things that I consciously choose to do or not based on my religion. I take as much of an active part in my religion as I can and I enjoy the feeling that I get from being a part of that. I think that the point of believing resides in the fact that having something to believe in makes me a better person. Do I believe that everything that happened in the Torah or Old Testament actually happened, in some way, yes (probably not word for word). Do I believe that it is really the word of God? It is doubtful, but many scholars agree on that. Do I think that there is something to be learned from the foundations of religion and the scriptures? Of course!

      I think that one of the most interesting things that religion offers us is the opportunity to study and discuss. Not only should we discuss amongst members of our own religion, but with everyone. In the Jewish tradition, we spend a lot of time discussing and debating every little point over and over. I find that discussing religion with others to be very interesting. I think it helps us grow in our own religious beliefs and helps us to understand where everyone else fits in.

      The goal was to get some brain juices flowing, and i am glad that I inspired some thought! One of your recent posts inspired me to do some thinking, so check back!

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