Sunday, November 7, 2010

How does your religion impact the rest of your world view?

What is the impact of various religions on the thinking of their members, in areas that don't necessarily seem to have much to do with religion?
[Note: I previously posted this on the Babycenter Religious Debate Board]

I'll give some examples from Judaism:

- the traditional strong emphasis on religious study morphed into a very strong emphasis on secular studies

- just as Jewish texts are never simply read and just taken literally, at face value, but are debated and analyzed to death, there is a tendancy to take the "analyze everything and accept nothing at face value" approach into all other areas

- since Judaism focuses so much on Jewish law, there is certainly no stigma to be "legalistic". To the contrary, becoming a lawyer in the secular world seems natural

- strong notion of using one's own experience of oppression to fight for the rights of others who are oppressed. The idea is biblical ("do not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt"), but the mindset is still very strong today even among secular Jews (eg. "do not restrict the legal rights of gays, for you know how it felt when the Nazis took away your rights")

- since Judaism has so many rules, there tends to be an understanding of other religions that have rules. There is also a willingness to fight for minority religious rights, even by secular Jews, since restrictions on practices were often a tool of oppression against Jews [which explains why my agnostic/atheist Jewish mother, who worked as a teacher, was constantly explaining to her non-Jewish colleagues why they shouldn't expect Hindu students to eat meat or JW students to do Xmas activities or Sikh students to take off their turbans or Muslim girls to take off their hijab...]

- communal obligations. There are Jewish teachings about the amount that one is obligated to give to charity, but very strong communal organizations were supported by even secular Jews

- food and feasting! Judaism requires certain feasts on certain holidays. Even Jews who do nothing else will often still do this - the Passover seder is the most enduring Jewish practice. There is a definite urge to get together with family and friend and prepare huge quantities of food.

- Music and dancing are mentioned in the Bible as expressions of joy (see descriptions of the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea, or of King David). No big Jewish event (wedding, bar mitzvah, etc.) is complete until there is a frenzy of dancing, including people being thrown up on chairs and hoisted up, even among secular Jews.

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