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My Faith: Raising religious (but not too religious) children
Laurel Synder is raising her two sons Jewish, but not kosher.
April 13th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Faith: Raising religious (but not too religious) children

Editor's noteLaurel Snyder is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a poet and author of many books for children. Follow her on Twitter at @laurelsnyder.

By Laurel Snyder, Special to CNN

(CNN) – A few years ago I was invited to my local Jewish Community Center to do a reading of my picture book “Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher.” It was going to be a child-friendly event, so I took my kids along.

Now, “Baxter” isn’t really a book about being kosher. It’s about wanting to be accepted into a community. But I always like to make sure my listeners know what the word kosher means before I read it, since the joke at the center of the book depends on that. So as usual I asked the Jewish Community Center crowd if they could define the word.

Before anyone else could answer, my own son Mose, who was 5 at the time, jumped up and shouted out, “I know! I know! Kosher is us! We’re kosher!” Then he sat back down again, beaming proudly.

And I might have been proud too. Only, you see, we’re not kosher.

On the drive home I tried to figure out what to say to Mose about his mix-up. I wanted him to know what it means to be kosher, to live by a rigid religious dietary code, day in and day out. But I also needed him to understand that we’re not.

How could I show respect for this part of our Jewish tradition while also suggesting that it doesn’t seem relevant in our own household? Should I just blame it on my own parents, who didn’t raise me that way?

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

It’s not easy to explain something to a kid when you haven’t yet figured it out for yourself. One of the most helpful/terrible things about having children is that they require us to think things out explicitly. That often means they make us face the very things we’ve been avoiding.

Sometimes, as a result, kids challenge us to become more mindful or observant. I hadn’t been a member of a synagogue for years when I became a mom. I hadn’t hosted a Passover Seder or found the time to light Shabbat candles.

Even though I worked for a Jewish agency and wrote about religion professionally, when it came to my home life I was almost completely unobservant. Judaism was something I thought about more intellectually than personally. Religion was an interesting idea more than a belief system.

Now I light candles each week and say the blessings. I belong to a havurah – a cohort of local Jewish friends who get together for monthly potluck dinners – and also a synagogue.

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Because there’s something about having kids that makes me want to be a better version of my Jewish self. I want something special to pass on to them. Something more than “You’re Jewish because I’m Jewish.”

But sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes my kids help me recognize the limits of my faith.

In truth, I do not keep kosher and I don’t really want to. My husband is not Jewish, though we’re raising our family to be. So, yeah, we eat tacos for Shabbat dinner most weeks and usually skip Friday night services.

This is the truth and I have to own it. I can only shift my life around so much without feeling inauthentic. Lying to my kids about my religious life is no way to model the value of faith.

So when, after the “Baxter”/kosher fiasco, I set out to write my new picture book, “Good night, laila tov” (laila tov means “good night” in Hebrew), I wanted to paint an honest portrait of my largely secular household.

I wanted my kids to recognize the family in my story as Jewish, but also as, well, like us. Which is to say, not exactly kosher.

On some level I was reacting to the fact that most of the Jewish picture books in my home feel like they’re about someone else. They’re usually set in a Polish village a century ago, or on the Lower East Side of New York City, where mothers cook and fathers pray.

I wanted “Good night, laila tov” to be a sort of lowest common denominator. Contemporary and universal. It’s not about Jewish history, and it doesn’t have a single rabbi in it. It won’t teach you new Hebrew words or show you how to say a certain prayer.

It’s just a story about a Jewish American family going camping, experiencing nature, love, work and rest. In writing it I hoped to capture something typical, something natural, something simple.

And it does present, to my mind, Jewish values: Nature is spiritual, and takes us beyond ourselves. Time spent with family is sacred.

The family in the book plants trees and picks up their campsite, because caring for the earth is part of Judaism, I think. Along with caring for each other.

But as I wrote, I found myself a little afraid that, in attempting to write a picture book for everyone, I was letting the Jewish particularity go. Aren’t family nature, and environmentalism tenets of faith beyond the Jewish world, in every religion?

What did it say about me, my choices, my household, that the Jewish life I was choosing to depict looked like it could be any household at all?

Then I come back around to that moment with Mose, that moment of realizing I’d somehow misled him. Because whatever I’m unsure of, whatever I don’t know about faith, I do know this: if it isn’t honest, it doesn’t count.

The purpose of faith, as I understand it, is to infuse life with greater meaning. To make it more real. Not to dress it up. Not to pretend.

My kids and I are on a journey together. We’re setting out for parts unknown.

And while we may find ourselves changing as we trek along, there is a sacred quality in simply being who we are today. Of stopping on the trail and taking a deep breath. It’s enough, I think, to be exactly who we are, kosher or not.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Laurel Snyder.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Judaism

soundoff (3,114 Responses)
  1. Can we agree on some things?

    Ok, For the 3 Abraham religions:

    1. We are made in the likeness of God
    2. Gods spirit is in all of us
    3. We should treat all people like we would want to be treated

    So, when we meet our maker is he going to care which religion you belonged to (even if you were athiest), or, if you treated all people as equals and treated them like you would want to be treated?

    April 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Ran

      That's a very elementary understanding of religion and what it means to be religious. You sound like someone who has one foot in the door-one who doesn't know what it is to truly believe in religion or not.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      That depends. My priest said, "nobody loses Heaven without repeatedly refusing God. Tha's the only way to Hell." That sounds about right to me. God will welcome you home, just as any father, as long as you want it. I pray everybody wants it, so it is sad to me that some people refuse this gift. Maybe that's why God tests us all. I sure as Hell pray I can do something right...

      April 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Can we agree on some things?

      No, religion really is that simple. And if you are trying to tell me it is more "complex" – chances are you are trying to lead me astray to either take advantage of me or get me to do something I don't want to do.

      Simple as that!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Can we agree on some things?

      @FajitaBob

      I think that would be true, but, would, even an atheist, look God in the face and deny him? Chances are they would be the evangelicals of heaven who the rest of us wished would give it a rest with the God stuff already – afterall, he is right Their!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Satan has plenty of things to agree on, for everyone who is wiling. It's not what WE can agree on, it is WHOM we agree with.
      It is God who sets the standard, it is Him we will answer too, and it is Him we are to agree with. There is NO OTHER WAY, people, NO OTHER BUT JESUS CHRIST! He came to declare God, to reveal Him to mankind, and to offer Himself as sacrifice for OUR sins, so that by trusting in Him, we could be reconciled to the Father, or Creator. IF you want to argue about it, argue with God! But you won't change this truth, and you'll face it on the Day of YOUR APPOINTMENT! This is the destiny of us all.... Those who received Him will be saved, those who didn't will be on their own, without covering for their sins, destined for eternal separation from God who gave them life. What is so hard to understand here?!

      April 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • joe

      @prism1234
      Please give up your misguided beliefs on revelations, you have been led astray and if you don't turn back now to the words of Jesus Christ I am afraid you will burn in hell. It is not me saying this it is the words of Jesus Christ – "many will be led astray".

      April 17, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • joe

      Remember prism, it is not me judging you it is god judging you as it is clearly stated in the bible. I am just warning you for your own good.

      How does it feel?

      April 17, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. mklsgl

    Given: If you are Jewish, then you believe that G-d is All Things. G-d knows your thoughts, your intentions, your meanings, your interpretations, and your perspectives/selves...your everything. Observance and outward expression is purely the individual's preference.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Colin

      He sounds like the mother of all stalk_rs.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Ran

      In other words, God is your invisible friend in your head that you can make wishes to! Wish for candy!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  3. Colin

    One area where we atheists have performed a valuable community service is in keeping creationism and other religious dogma out of public schools. However, I am going to suggest something counter-intuitive and even an anathema to most atheists (and indeed most Americans). I am going to suggest that we not only make prayer permissible in government schools, but make it mandatory.

    We do it in the following manner. Upon entry into high school, each child “adopts” a wounded veteran or other person who has a visible and incurable condition, such as a lost leg, arm or eye. Each day the children pray to God that the person recover their lost appendage. Those children who have other beliefs can bow, chant, jiggle an amulet, stare into a crystal or do whatever they wish to “pray” for their chosen ailing person.

    Five years later, at their graduation, prayer can put up or shut up. We parade the injured people through the graduation ceremony so the children can see the results of their 5 solid years of constant prayer. Just how many limbs, eyes or ears do you think will have re-grown? And why are you so sure of that? Does God hate amputees? Why does he always have to hide his medical miracles inside the body of the sick, where things are less medically certain?

    The doubtless, consistent and universal failure of their prayers will help the students understand:

    (i) that there is no god listening and that praying is a futile exercise when the results can REALLY be tested;

    (ii) the frailties of their religious leaders as they scurry for excuses –“god won’t be tested”, “god moves in mysterious ways,” “perhaps the people have been healed spiritually”, etc; and

    (iii) the weakness of human nature (and a basic lesson in politics) as the religious right moves to shut the experiments down.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      WOW–I never heard someone who knows less about religion (don't worry–I am certain you have read the Bible in it's entirity). Those of us who have issues (I am not an amputee, but I do live with illness) pray for strength, not healing. I BELIEVE God has given me a cross to bear because He is reminding me daily to keep Him at the front of my list (I did not do so when I was younger; perhaps God is saying, "hey, don't forget me)). You can choose to BELIEVE otherwise, and I will not mock you. But live and let live. And maybe try to stop being so damn cruel. You have no evidence that you are right, and working so hard to try to offend people (just because they happen to have a different opinion than yours) is not a good way to live. Peace!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Colin

      "Those of us who have issues (I am not an amputee, but I do live with illness) pray for strength, not healing."

      Oh bullsh.t. If you thought prayer would cure you, you would pray every day. That's waht p.sses me off about you people, you always want to make excuses for your non-existent sky-fairy. Man up. Either accpet it doesn't work or get it to work.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      In addition to a study that indoctrinates children to be atheists we should also include a study of atheist belief fundamentals.
      Atheists claim a frog and a human have the same reason for existence. Each student should look into the eyes of a frog and as the frog looks back consider the meaning of life. Unity of existence and meaning between life forms in action.
      Atheists claim upon death the frog, the student, Hitler and Mother Teresa all enter an eternal rest. This claim is based totally on faith because we have no proof or knowledge as to what happens upon death and without reason for existence there can be no reason for non existence.
      Atheists teach and preach this faith in our public school system with the full support and funding of our state and federal government. Perhaps one day a Church will arise that will fight against this indoctrination of our children and establishment of Atheism as the national faith.

      April 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @fred

      What your talking about is secular naturalism. The word atheist is applied properly only to those who do not believe in a god/godds/whatever. Atheism on its own is not a world view, only part of a world view. Also fred, you admit that there is no way to know what happens when we die, and I agree, which means that religions should not be preaching eternal life, since theres no way we could know.

      April 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • fred

      HawiiGuest
      We have no acceptable scientific proof about life after death. Given atheists and Christians have the same amount of scientific proof in this regard we can by faith believe the atheist version or the Christian version. The Christian version has several thousand years of prominent writings in this regard. Those writings of Saul of Tarsus that are not disputed by scholars and other writings accepted by most scholars show a great number of eye witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. This gives us more to go on than modern opinions of man that have nothing whatsoever. As a default why accept a version that is known to be without merit over one that cannot be completely discounted which offers specific knowledge?

      April 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @fred

      The validity of any writings on Jesus is at best 2nd or 3rd hand accounts. Just because something was written back then, doesn't give it validity. Also, like I just said, you are attributing things to atheism that are not true. Afterlife has nothing to do with atheism. Most buddhists, for instance, do not believe in a god figure and would be considered atheists, but they still have a concept of an afterlife. Finally, there is nothing wrong with saying that we don't know what happens after death, even though scientific evidence would point to nothing.

      April 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • fred

      HawiiGuest
      Even Christianity leaves you without a crystal clear picture of the afterlife. All the descriptions in the Bible I have to say I really don’t know. So, I simply accept my reliance on the nature of God being goodness and having provided this life will continue to provide going forward. There is no downside to my belief in all that Christ said and did. If my statements about atheists sound negative it is not personal I simply think a frog and man have a different reason for existence. Real or not a positive slant in why we are here and where we are going makes more sense than a negative or nonexistent slant. Our entire existence seems to be going somewhere from some origin.
      I don’t know is not an option when you look at Christ on the Cross. It is all for nothing or all for something or some purpose.

      April 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @fred

      It's the whole Pascal's Wager thing again. Even if you were to take out the thousands of other relgions, you still have a huge number of abrahamic religions that worship the same god. How do you know yours is correct? For every "personal testimony" in favor of your religion, there is one for every other religion, made with just as much sincerity and belief. There are also people that stand up for each religion and claim all the others are false. All these religions cannot be true, but they could all be false. I find it more intellectually honest to take an agnostic atheist stance, and wait to see if anyone can provide some type of evidence. Just remember fred, you are a part of a religion that condemns others to eternal torment. Think about that in depth, and see if you can still be ok with following a belief system like that.

      April 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • fred

      HawiiGuest
      Religion has its problems and according to Jesus gets in the way. Jesus spoke about love and love is problem because as a people we cannot seem to even get that right. The Bible is clear that Hell is for Satan and his demons. The Bible is clear that these guys know Jesus and know the Scriptures very well. They are not going to hell by accident. As to everyone else including Christians it is Jesus that will decide. Jesus made it clear we are in no position to judge and there will be a separation of sheep from goats. In short only a select few make it into Hell and the rest have the grace and mercy of Christ on their side.
      We always go back to why we exist. I was given a Bible by improbable coincidence after which I was given a new perspective and see the hand of God in all things where before there was no God. I am bombarded more and more each day with reasons to deny God and make a choice. You have your belief and make your choices. I cannot even say your ways are currently right or wrong because for me the wrong way was the only way I found Christ. It would have been nice to grow up in peaceful loving Christian or Islamic home but, that was not in the cards. I came around the hard way. The important thing is to pay attention to what does comes your way, nothing happens by accident if you are here for a reason.

      April 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @fred

      I don't find the bible a reliable authority on what is true. It has not been verified as a historically accurate book, and what it says is irrelevant if what it says is unable to be confirmed. You find solace in taking the bible seriously, but I find it disturbing that god supposedly created hell for satan and his fallen angels, yet will send people there for merely not believing in his existence. The bible is a book of exclusion, intolerance, and hate. With laws that specifically say in that very book no human will be able to live up to, so a god has to sacrifice himself to himself. There are inconsistencies, highly hateful speech, and a supposed "loving god" that routinely destroyes entire cities and orders his followers to wipe entire peoples off the face of the earth. You seem to follow the ideaology of love and acceptance, and you don't need a book, or really even faith in something unverifiable to live that way.

      April 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • fred

      HawiiGuest
      “It has not been verified as a historically accurate book”
      =>It is not a history book but much of the Bible can be verified. Take for example the book of Jonah. Nineveh and the Kings discussed in the Bible have been verified. What cannot be verified is stuff like Jonah being swallowed by a big fish yet the ideogram for Nineveh is the “house of the fish”. The principles of the book apply and the story is one that carries throughout the Bible.

      “irrelevant if what it says is unable to be confirmed.”
      =>The vast majority of antiquity cannot be confirmed. Gravity is confirmed because you do not fly away and Christ is confirmed when following His laws produces consistent results.

      “I find it disturbing that god supposedly created hell for satan and his fallen angels”
      =>Satan is in a form hell already by the twisted thought and darkness that surrounds which is of his own making not Gods. You are asking that God stop Satan and stop everything but cute little bunny rabbits from jumping around in a garden of lettuce.

      “will send people there for merely not believing in his existence.”
      =>that is Satan and man again creating evil out of their own hearts not God. What you said is not written in the Bible.

      “ The bible is a book of exclusion, intolerance, and hate”
      =read the Bible again, that is the exact opposite of what Jesus clearly stated. The Bible is a story of God redeeming a people.

      “laws that specifically say in that very book no human will be able to live up to”
      =>it is not a fairy tale it is the cold hard uncensored picture of man over time. We cannot ever expect to be without sin and God is saying I have taken care of that for you.

      “sacrifice himself to himself”
      =>God was giving us a clear picture of how much God loves that he is willing to sacrifice what is the most precious in order to save us. All was given for man not for self.

      “There are inconsistencies,”
      =>not really, there are translational issues and misunderstandings not inconsistencies.

      “ a supposed "loving god" that routinely destroys entire cities and orders his followers to wipe entire peoples off the face of the earth.”
      =>Check out the history of early man and latter on even with the Assyrians, Babylonians taking note of the brutality of man. I understand you wish God gave everyone a daisy instead of a gun but that is not a true picture of who we are. Hitler called on the destruction of Jews in the name of God. Do you want me to believe Hitler did what he did for God? Do not blame God for the actions of man.

      “You seem to follow the ideaology of love and acceptance, and you don't need a book, or really even faith in something unverifiable to live that way.”
      =>true, God looks at the heart of man not the external. The Bible says all who would come to the Lord will be saved. This is a general disposition of the heart God is looking for. When all is said and done truth will be revealed. Jesus said we will be surprised who is in the Kingdom and who is not.

      April 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @fred

      You give no real answers to my posts, merely assertions based on your own interpretation of the bible. I looked at what the bible said, not what an apologists thinks it says, and found that book severely lacking in morals. Yes man destroys, but according to your book, god destroyed Sodom and Gammorah, ordered the killings of hundreds of thousands if not millions, and endorsed slavery, intolerance, and the killing of those seen as unclean, and sinful. In terms of the "ultimate sacrifice", if I knew that I would be tortured for a few days, dead for a few more, then resurrected with divine powers for eternity, then that's no sacrifice. I would take that deal any day of the week! A few days of pain, and then Phenominal Cosmic Power!!!

      April 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • fred

      HawwiiGuest
      “my God my God why hast thou forsaken me” Those were the words of Christ because he never experienced separation from God. When Christ took on sin he was separated from God. That moment Christ experienced what those who are separate from God will experience. He did not know at that moment he would be resurrected. Otherwise it would have been a walk in the park as you suggest

      April 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      So because Jesus (who is supposedly an aspect of god, which quite frankly you only see in polytheistic myths) didn't know he would be resurrected, that is supposed to make it a sacrifice? I'm sorry fred, and please know that I'm not trying to turn you from your faith, I'm just saying that these things make absolutely no sense. The supposed ultimate sacrifice was a few days of suffering, and then ressurection into divinity. The bible itself gives examples of a very immoral god, as well as a people who were obsessed with bending others to their will and way of worship.

      April 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • fred

      HawaiiGuest
      The entire story makes no sense. Before my conversion I had read parts years earlier and found it nothing but crazy stories from religious nuts. This actually is one of the reasons I ignore people who feed me the hoax line or that Jesus was made up by some group of people in 175 AD. No one would make up such a story. Who in their right mind makes up a story like this?
      gotta run – have a good evening

      April 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Khalidkhan

      hello mark,i am lokendra, i ever read your mail but till today i codlun't understand what type of work you are doing in your comapny. i mean what is your main work by which some one earn money. please clear it.thanks & Regard

      November 10, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  4. Atheist

    At least Christians are better..... they don't keep kosher/halal, leave extra di.ck skin alone, no clothing law etc.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  5. mort

    i'm not kosher because i think it is silly. following 2000 year old rules in the modern world seems silly.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Ran

      I sat on a chair that was previously used by a woman who was on her period.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  6. ccd08

    Here is the point she needs to understand: Religion is all about being all in; that's what faith is. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, etc...it is not the complete faith without believing it all. And "half-sies" don't cut it.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Horus

      If you attempted to follow the teachings in the Bible, or other religious texts you would be a walking contradiction.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Sean

      I agree. It should be all or nothing. 4 me....it's Jesus.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Magic Jew

      If you actually did what the Bible tells you to do, you would be in jail for murder, likely on death row, or in an insane asylum.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ran

      Ccd08....I don't even think you understand what that 'belief' would include. Which makes you no better than the author of the article.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • No Religion

      You're right, because every Jew, Christian, Baptist, Muslim, etc. follow every single rule that is laid out in their "bible." Get real!!! They all break the most important rule, which is treat others as you would want to be treated. Look at politics right now and how many people use religion to persecute others. Religion is a joke halfies or not!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Mr Reason

    Judaism is a fake religion that needs to be abolished permanently!!

    April 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Can you name a single "non-fake" religion?

      April 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  8. Just a thought

    I liked her line: The purpose of faith, as I understand it, is to infuse life with greater meaning. To make it more real. Not to dress it up. Not to pretend.

    Most of the comments I read are full of bitterness and reprimed anger, why?
    It seems to me that whoever that strongly believes, has had a close encounter with divinity, therefore they fiecely defend their faith.
    And those who don't believe at all, have been exposed to religion but have not had any supernatural experiences, therefore they assume everything is a lie, a pretend circus.

    Shouldn't we get apart from absolutism? If you have not had a divine experience, allow those who have to believe in what they want. Isn't it an expression of the rational being to validate their empirical learning, to trust their experiences? If they find greater meaning for their lives, why you consider it such a bad thing? We are not talking about extremists or terrorists, just simple believers...

    Please, tolerance and respect.

    April 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Person of Interest

      Agreed, I'm agnostic. While I don't believe there is anyway to prove or disprove God, I'd just assume to live my life as I morally choose to do so in a free and democratic society.

      One of my best friends is highly religious, jokingly I'd call him a Biblethumper. But that is only how he judges himself. He has Church friends of his that try to tell me how to live my life. I overheard Kyle tell them once that: we all have to follow the path God has laid out for us and that's all I'm doing. One day hopefully I'll live on a better path but for now it's God's will for me to be were I am, and Kyle's to walk beside me showing me a different way.

      That right there is what true Christianity is about. Showing others a path to live by not forcing them. And I respect Kyle's faith, and I wish I had the ability to believe in something as powerfully as he does. But this world would be a lesser place without Kyle in it and would be alot more dull without me.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. drowlord

    First World Drama: I'm religious, but I'm not, but I want to be, but I don't really. Maybe I can be special without making an effort. I'm spiritual by just being me. I'd better share this with the world.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      drowlord,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.

      Funny thing Life! One moment you have the "answers" and the next moment they are all wrong! Such fleetings are but angulaisms of potentialities! :-) :-( :-)

      April 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • John

      Awesome :)

      April 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Pipe-Dreamer

    The "bitteren'd" fruits of "wisdomnomics" goes without proving the Ways or the Truths nor even the Lights of practicalities regarding individualized Faith!

    April 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  11. The Jackdaw

    All humans need is logic, compassion and empathy. Fantasy not required.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Will

      Amen!

      No really! I am not joking, as a religious person I agree with you!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  12. KODAK

    Sounds to me like she wants to cherry pick the parts she wants from either side, to suit her wants and desires. No commitment at all. If it feels good, it is okay. Sounds very self centered and selfish to me.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Find me a person at church that does not do exactly that.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Birch please

      You have just defined 99% of theists.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Matt

      The basic principle in all this debate is that having real faith is recognizing that we have to have God's view of matters. For example if we claim to be Jewish then following the strict dietary code found in the Mosaic Law is not an option, it is a requirement. If we claim to be Christian then we must be totally neutral in the politics of the world. Jesus said we are to be no part of the world.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Mandeep

      , Jessica Parks definitely isn’t the bride he’s enceptixg. I'm wondering what/who he WAS enceptixg??? Guess I'll have to read it to find out! Great hook!As for April Fool's Day, my daughter came home from work on her lunch hour and said that the local hospital was closed down and had a SWAT team in attendance. I was sure she was telling an April Fool's joke, but no, according to the news, it was the truth. In my small city .

      November 10, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  13. Matt

    I can't help but say the same old tired lines over and over again. I know it goes in one ear andout the other. This country was founded on the principals of the Judeo/Christian faith. A majority of the citizens still identify themselves as believing in God. You can hate it, you can attack it, but its the truth. They have the right to be themselves and influence commerce and legislation by their choices. It is a free society yes, but all societies will reflect the views held by the majority. And Christians back Jewish beliefs. If you don't like it then maybe you should be the ones who consider moving somewhere else....but then where would you go? Not to any of the other world's leading powers. I don't think you would like it there at all.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Dude

      Why should I leave when the Christians (and other religious groups) are the ones being stupid?

      April 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @Matt,

      Since you happen to know more than most historians, why don't you enlighten us as to what principles that were exclusive to Judeo-Christian beliefs this country was founded on. Please be specific.

      And why do you think that our congress lied in the treaty of tripoli when it stated formally the exact opposite?

      April 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • rich

      Many children give up the belief in Santa long before they admit it...

      April 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Clint

      From the treaty of tripoli, signed June 10th 1797 by president John Adams:

      "Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      April 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Birch please

      White men were also in power at the time... That has only about 20yrs left to it.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  14. Colin

    I was brought up a Catholic, but after repeatedly seeing pretty fundamental holes in the belief and never being given a satisfactory answer, I ended up an atheist. Here are some of my issues that caused me to stop believing

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Dude

      I was going to write exactly the same thing! What an amazing coincidence!

      April 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Ponder this Colin,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      "Pre-determinations are indicative resolutes and not withstanding are the depths' resonations!" What once was will ever so be! What one sees outwardly is it not seen inwardly? Where is this place at where visions of Life become our body's end-game for visions? The "brain yards" of quraks and gluons and positrons and electrons and all likenesses that science does dictate about are all parts of the human body are they not? Again I do ask, "Where is this place at where visions of Life become our body's end-game for visions?" Are we but not a singularism of mini-nuclearized particles flailing about in random fundamentals of physics' practicalities? Let Go! Let God alone! He is so very busy keeping all things apart and parted from each other's particalized pr

      April 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • probinu

      This is about the most intelligent and detailed response I have ever read and I applaud the author.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • GodPot

      Well said.

      "including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women." You forgot bigamy and incest.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Abe

      Colin, props for laying it all out. Well written.
      You must understand that carbon-dating acted differently under the extreme pressure after the big-bang. So +- a few billions years.
      Logic can't be used to prove G-d doesn't exist, remember if you believe that G-d created this small universe (small to him/her, gargantuan to us) he/she/it can also create it to seem billions of years old.
      Good luck man.

      From
      an Orthodox Jew living in Texas

      April 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Mom in midwest

      My thoughts exactly! I was not raised with any religion at all but felt the need to explore the subject from a very early age by attending various churches of different denominations with neighbors and extended family ( I was a very curious child) From about the age of 6 I simply had questions no one would/could answer which, as I grew older, lead to more questions. As I grew my skepticism grew about the entire subject as a whole. While a readily can see that faith can bring comfort and joy to many people it requires a certain amout of suspended disbelief to accomplish which i just have not been able to do. Discounting science and rational is not an option for me.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      "he/she/it can also create it to seem billions of years old."

      So god is trying to trick us? Some kind of sick cosmic joke?

      April 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • 12321test

      Allegory of the Cave. Look it up.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Abe

      Critical thinking doesn't start until you lie down you preconceived notions. That is what I liked about this article well thought out. The response (*facepalm*) not so much.
      One can believe in a G-d that placed him/her in a well balanced, aged, natural, world, to explore and understand (can't do that if is doesn't follow to the laws of nature).
      All I am saying is that belief in G-d and the age of the universe are not and have never been at odds. That is just a mocking point made up by uninformed, liberal hosts.

      Personally as a follower of Chabad philosophy, we believe that the world appears aged so that G-d can reward us for the choices we make. (short answer, long answer is "go ask your guru" this is just a blog).

      April 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Pipe-Dreamer

    The "aged" yet childhood memories are that whcih many elder people tend to discover as they grow older.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      My Uncle and Aunt experienced the same thing. The doctors called it Alzheimer's.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Phosphorus,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.

      Playing Doctor Do-Little are we? You really are hellbent to do little! :-( :-) :-(

      April 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Pipe-Dreamer,
      Dr. Do-Little?
      Who was talking to animals?

      April 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Athena12

    This is a thought provoking article about a parent struggling with how to raise their child. It could be written regarding most any religion. Passing down a faith tradition is a way to connect the generations. We constantly dispose of so much; I'm all for keeping what is good (although not always relevant). Probably the most meaningful aspect of my worship is the fact that it was passed down to me by my father. "Infusing life with greater meaning," as the author states.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • GodPot

      What if your father was an accountant and raised you to believe that only by being an accountant could you truly find happiness and never gave you any other options, infact threatened to disown you if you even so much as glanced at the attorney booth or medical fields at your school job fair? I don't believe any single line indoctrination is healthy for humans as it grows lopsided thinkers who cannot see the world from any other angle than the one their head has been forced into.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Colin

      Godpot – GREAT analogy.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      GodPot: we're all adults, and likely nobody who still believes in any religion does so without some contemplation. Just because you had a bad experience with your FAMILY life, don't blame religion for it. You may hate the fact that your dad forced you into something, but the something is not guilty. That was a personal action by one person.

      You may not want them to, but maybe some people who see your post will pray that you are happy. Won't matter to you if they do or not...but MAYBE there is a God, and MAYBE he is listening.

      April 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • GodPot

      @FajitaBob – "we're all adults" Um, no, last time I checked there were still millions of children being indoctrinated in one religion or another with each religion laying claim to "truth" which cannot in fact be "truth" since they are all opposing positions. I know that regardless of whether anyone prays for my happiness or my destruction neither prayer has any power so is a waste of your mental capacity.

      April 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  17. rich

    Even better...raise them without religion and teach critical thinking.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • ch0673

      So True!!!

      April 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      Rich: cricital thinking does NOT mean you criticize others' opinions. Please try ot remember, you have no evidence that your opinion is correct. I, however, see you as proof that there is a Higher Power. The super planet did not just pop out of nothing. And life did not just grow out of the soup. That's my OPINION, and I will not mock yours. But until you have PROOF, try to understand that you are not yet right.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • rich

      @FajitaBob – I don't think I carry the burden of proof of something not real. How do you disprove the unreal; like the flying spaghetti monster or the tiny teapot in orbit. I can't disprove Zeus but yet it is nearly universally considered a myth as I considered all gods.

      April 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @FajitaBob,
      "cricital thinking does NOT mean you criticize others' opinions."
      To some extent it does.

      If those opinions are driving public policy, then I have every right to criticize them, just as you have every right to criticize mine.
      Not to mention, since when are opinions above reproach? It only seems to be when it is an opinion on the supernatural that people get upset about being criticized.
      When was the last time you got upset because someone criticized your choice of Bud over Miller, or Coke over Pepsi, or Lemonade over water?

      April 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  18. Potrzebie

    I send my kids to Catholic school and I'm not Catholic or religious. I had real reservations, but then during orientation they said they were heavy on community outreach and teaching that Jesus is about love. I realized I have a problem with the Catholic Church, but that the Catholic Community are for the most part just people trying to live their lives like I am. The American Catholic community also doesn't march in lockstep with the Vatican either. Ever notice how there aren't that many big Catholic families, with like 9 or 12 kids any more?

    I provide "counter-balance" to the silly made-up stuff they do and to the argument against gay people. They're too young for the contraception/abortion talk yet.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Person of Interest

      With the exception of the vocal minority most Catholics are pretty laid back about most social issues and are moderates on the issue. And before I get flamed go to a Catholic Chruch on an average Sunday, then go again on Christmas and Easter. The C & E crew make up a majority of the Catholic Chruch and they can't even make it to mass on Sunday. They aren't exactly the standing around for a pro-life or anti-gay sit-in.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  19. palintwit

    I shudder to think what would would've happened if John McCain had been elected, then died, leaving Sarah Palin in the White House. How would she have handled all the threats our country faces every day? The horror... the horror.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Matt

      Your comment has nothing to do with the article.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • palintwit

      Well, neither does yours, actually.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Clint

      At least he mentioned "the article"....

      April 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Will

      Well, he would have become one of the best "Democrat" presidents in American history – just as Obama has become one of the best "Republican" presidents in American history. I always vote republican so I am voting for Obama this year!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Nonimus

      In the sense of raising non-kosher Jewish kids, i think the color blue is the best when disengaging the clutch in a '57 Chevy.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  20. Sarah

    I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. I still have unanswered questions, same as I did as a kid. Whenever we went to our Kingdom Hall during meetings, I'd usually have a question for the elders, but they never EVER gave me a straight answer; they gave me an answer to confuse the hell out of me. Now that I'm older, I realize I STILL don't have the answers I was looking for, but I do realize now that religions (I'm not just saying the JW's, I mean ALL religions) will find some way to keep the children in the church, no matter how they go about it. The children will eventually learn to accept things for how they are, and will give up asking questions, knowing they won't understand exactly what's going on. I'm glad I left. And, ironically, after speaking to a friend who worships Satan, she gave me more answers than the Kingdom Hall ever gave me before! And she actually made sense! ... Just saying, religions should be more like that Satanic group (god forbid if I could ever remember the name of it), but be straight forward, answer the questions PROPERLY, and let us decide for ourselves what we want in life. You've got enough media attention and followers as it is; stop forcing us.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Ex-JW

      I remember at a circuit assembly once the speaker said "As parents it's the hardest thing to save our children and it's like being in a life raft with your panicked child overboard and we want to just bop them on the head with an oar so we can pull them on board to safety..."

      April 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • brad

      Hey, I use to be a JW to. Look, maybe the reason they can't answer your questions strait up is because the whole thing is made up. There is no god, angels, devils, spirits, magic and so on. There is just us and the evironment, and we have to make ALL of our own decisions, which also means we have to except ALL of our mistakes, responsability.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Sarah

      @ brad – yeah, I was honestly thinking that way for a little while too, although after speaking to that satanic friend, I had to really stop and ask myself, "What if HER religion is right"? For instance, any ex or current JW who reads this is gonna say something like, "But that's what JW's were warning you about! Satan will make everything seem so easy to you so you will turn towards him". But ... what if Satan makes it seem so easy, because it IS so easy to understand? You know? And the JW's are just using this tactic to gain more followers? Now, I'm not a satanic member at all. In fact, I'm still undecided on whether or not I believe in Jehovah or not, but I will not go back to the organization; not after the reason they kicked my parents out for. I say, if you chose to believe in God, then great; believe in him your own way in your own home. He can read into your heart, so he knows how you feel. You should only have to go to church if you need a refresher or a reminder of the organization. That's it. If you don't believe in God, then I'm sure you've got your reasons, right? If you learned the 'truth' and decided to go against it, that's okay too, because we're all human. You could be right; it's just us and our environment. It's our responsibility for our own mistakes, and decisions. :)

      April 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Sarah,.

      Please do consider,,,,,,

      "Pre-determinations are indicative resolutes and not withstanding are the depths' "resonations!" What once was will ever so be! What one sees outwardly is it not seen inwardly? Where is this place at where visions of Life become our body's end-game for visions? The "brain yards" of quraks and gluons and positrons and electrons and all likenesses that science does dictate about are all parts of the human body are they not? Again I do ask, "Where is this place at where visions of Life become our body's end-game for visions?" Are we but not a singularism of mini-nuclearized particles flailing about in random fundamentals of physics' practicalities? Let Go! Let God alone! He is so very busy keeping all things apart and parted from each other's particalized practicalities!

      The "man-made church'd structures" do not make the Kingdom of God! It is of one's body where the buildings of God can be found out and in all truth made said, our bodies are the Kingdoms of the Gods' buildings! I say this becuase I have seen the writings of attainable knowledge to all regarding the innerness of our bodies! Inside our body-buildings are innumerable cellular structures not unlike or no different than the stellarized structures in outward regions of the Great Celestial Cosmos! God's outter-most garment may well be the allness of "celestiality" but God's inner domains are the stomping grounds of Godly Beings we will never ever truly know of in our presnet days timeline(s)! I say this because; for us to "carry on" we need to turn our eyes away from devotionalisms of religious singularisms and make ways to centralize our combined interests for the well-being of all humanists and their humanisms potentials!

      April 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Pipe-Dreamer,
      "Are we but not a singularism of mini-nuclearized particles flailing about in random fundamentals of physics' practicalities?"

      No, we're not.

      April 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.