Editor's note: Laurel 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?
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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.
In reply, perhaps atheist know the Bible somewhat better than the average believer, but when you hear and feel God, one doesn't need to be a scholar on the Bible. But I think that concept already confuses atheists. Just realize that there are great theological scholars that make the question moot. My point is a believer has belief based on faith, a nonbeliever should keep quiet unless they have scholarly authority. Or do you atheist also expound greatly on other topics you don't know? This would make you simply blowhards.
So you think you have a special power that lets you communicate with god, that I and many others do not have? You know, many serial killers beleived the same thing.
You sound offended
How about this for "blowing hard", I don't need need fairy tails to feel better about myself, or explain the un-explainable, or wonder if I am getting some magical creature upset.
You said, "[...] but when you hear and feel God, one doesn't need to be a scholar on the Bible. But I think that concept already confuses atheists."
Not really. Most of us realize that only a cursory knowledge of the bible is advantageous to being religious. It allows the believer to remain ignorant about a lot of the nonsense in it. There is no greater asset to the religious than ignorance.
You said, "Just realize that there are great theological scholars that make the question moot."
Theology is a debate about the designs, colors and patterns of the emperor's clothes.
You said, "My point is a believer has belief based on faith, a nonbeliever should keep quiet unless they have scholarly authority."
Questioning the very foundation upon which the beliefs and religion are built requires no knowledge of the holy texts. All that is required is a healthy dose of skepticism and the ability to rationally evaluate the available evidence.
You said, "Or do you atheist also expound greatly on other topics you don't know?"
If these topics are also based on irrational beliefs in mythical beings, yes.
"but when you hear and feel God"
You do realize the only difference between you and an insane person is one is in a straight jacket. Some day we will be able to get the help that religious people need.
I have never murdered anyone either but I hope that doesnt mean I cannot comment on how terrible killing is?
One does not have to be a master plumber to recognise that the toilt is broken
You bring up 4 points, the first two do not merit reply. The 2nd two bring up rationality. I've never understood why it is more rational to think everything comes from nothing than to believe there is a Creator. If I said my ashtray formed on its own you would say hogwash. Yet you look at the cosmos, from the milky way down to a hummingbird's heart and say it fell together by accident. How irrational of you.
You said, "[...] the first two do not merit reply."
Why not? They go to the heart of the matter.
Ignorance is at the core of every religion. It is a fundamental requirement for believers to stay, or be kept ignorant to keep the flock in tact. Those that shed their ignorance will eventually question their beliefs.
You said, "I've never understood why it is more rational to think everything comes from nothing than to believe there is a Creator."
First, atheism doesn't say anything about the origin of the universe or life. It only says something about belief in gods, more specifically, a disbelief.
Second, most atheists reach their positions based on the evaluation of the available evidence. And, while there is a mountain of scientific evidence supporting the "big bang" theory and the theory of evolution, there is none for a creator. Most atheists will therefor find the scientifically supported theories more convincing than the religious ones.
That doesn't mean that I will claim with absolute certainty that there isn't a god. It could be, although I consider it highly unlikely, that there is a god that kick started it all. But just claiming that there is one is ridiculous beyond belief.
You said, "If I said my ashtray formed on its own you would say hogwash. Yet you look at the cosmos, from the milky way down to a hummingbird's heart and say it fell together by accident. How irrational of you."
There is probably a mark on that ashtray that indicates who manufactured it. There is evidence to support that there was a creator for it.
In effect you say that you can't comprehend that the universe was formed because of laws of physics, and because you can't comprehend it, you elect to insert magic.
While I don't know exactly how all matter in out universe was formed, I won't just make shit up. For all we know there could be multiple universes, or ours may continually collapse and reform. We won't ever know because our universe limits what we can see and measure.
But to believe in a creator you have to ignore or dismiss all scientific evidence and accept, without any evidence in support, a fairy tale. That sounds pretty irrational and ignorant to me.
All things testify there is a God, the world and everyone in it. Whereas you have only your own assertion to the contrary. That wouldn't stand up in any court of law.
"All things testify there is a God." What exactly do you mean by this? And if we were in court trying to decide if god was real, you already know the atheists would win, since you cant provide any evidence at all that he is real.
Incorrect – no jury is going to make a decision based on faith. However, based on fact based evidence(aka – science) is how they will come to their most accurate conclusion. In the realm of tangible, physical evidence, you couldn't be more off base with your statement.
"All things testify there is a God"
That wouldn't stand up in any court of law either.
anyone who cares about spelling on here has way too much time on their hands (no life) and can fuq off.
.... you spelled fuq wrong, heheheh
If god created the sun on the fourth day, how exactly had four days passed???? I'm lost here.
Bible= book of lies to control your thoughts and access your money.
Your statement shows such a lack of comprehension, I'm actually embarassed for you.
Kendall, you are pretty dull if you dont get what he was saying. Or are you just blowing off steam cuz you know your religion is BS? How long is a day when the son doesnt go up or down. And if god created light on the first day, where did it come from if the light source wasnt created until the 4th day. Let me guess, you cant answer that, but you will try to insult me. haha!
OK children, I will try to type slowly so you might comprehend. D Day was called "the longest day." No one thinks it was actualy longer than other days. The battle at Concord/Lexington was called the "shot heard round the world". This is symbolic language that conveys actual fact. Go back to school kids.
"This is symbolic language that conveys actual fact"
actually by specifically stating a numerical time period it ceases to become symbolic. Stating 4 means there had to have been a 3rd, 2nd and first, and some means of determining which was which.
It would be hippocratic if I said OMG, so I just say OMNEG oh my non exsistant god ( forgive me lor... no wait.. just forgive my spelling).
I think you are what was referred to in the Torah as an EMPTY VESSEL
So you're only lying to your kids a little bit, then?
I suppose that's better... somehow.
Laurel, I have news for you. Jewish traditions and religion have been around for 5,000 years. From your picture, it looks like you showed up on the Earth 30 something years ago. From what you have written, you don't know who you are. You borrow the parts of the religion you like, and discard the ones you don't. Whey else would you say we may find ourselves changing, and there is a sacred quality in simply being who we are today? Whether Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant, the simple fact is that it takes work to practice religion and you don't value that highly. My read, from never meeting you, is that your failure in your ability to dedicate to your faith is somehow passed off as enlightened. Embrace your faith! You'll be better off for it.
What a ridiculous post. You assume one can't be enlightened because they don't blindly accept the faith they were taught via tradition. That's just, well, ignorant.
Laurel's a convienent religous hypocrite.
The trouble with atheists is that only one out of a thousand has studied religion, but they all love to hear themselves rant juvenile verdicts on religion. They are like 4th graders saying physics is stupid because they have no understanding.
what ever, jerk
It's understood that atheists understand the bible (on the whole) better than religious people.
Actualy, this was studied....and the group that scored highest on knowledge of the Bible were atheists. They scored higher on knowledge of the Bible than those who "believe" in it. So, try again.
Yea that statistic is legit.
FYI, most students at a 4 year college study Religious History. It's a pretty popular elective. I remember my semester taking it and the class was packed.
You think they teach the same kind of objective religious history at religious colleges?
Ummm, 1) Physics is science and is provable – Gravity for example. It is a theory. Yet I can drop a ball and prove it exists.
2)Where's your source for your number "1 out of a thousand", because its more commonly accepted that most atheists study and reflect on spirituality far more than "believers".
Speaking of no understanding, a recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know MORE about the Bible than the average Christian.
Oh, wow, with words like that, you must be the first believer to be able to offer some proof for your god.. When will you be posting it for us?
The trouble with all the religious folks, is the trouble. If you were to wipe out all the athiests in the world, you'd lose 97% of the worlds scientists that do "gods work" in keeping your religious asses alive longer and happier. However, you'd only lose 2% of the jail population. Now lets reverse it and wipe out all that believeis jesus is their savior. Now you lose 68% of the jail population, but only 1% of the worlds scientists. Personally, I'm glad the future generation is wising up and praticing free thought.
Christians are more dangerous to our well being. Unsound minds do not help societies, rather work like a cancer against it.
The other trouble with religious folks is they actually think that the garbage they spew is fact. The beauty of athiesm is that we have an understanding in the difference between inference and fact. Bible thumps don't even know what inference means without looking it up.
Faith is not truth. If faith were truth there'd be only one faith.
Religions are clubs. You follow the rules, you're in.
To the poster that claims if we wipe out all atheists we would lose 98% or more of all scientists. Got news for you fellow, scientists come from all faiths. I've worked with Jewish, Muslim and Christian scientists. I'd say less than 25% of American scientists are atheists. The atheist scientists I have met are usually from mainland China. Just because we are in the persuit of knowledge does not mean we lack faith in God or things we cannot explain. If anything, we are more likely to accept the unknown, because we actually realize how little human beings truely understand the world. Also keep in mind most religious colleges actually DO teach evolution and modern day biological and physical science. I sleep very well with both my faith and my rational scientific training. I also appreciate the moral and ethical structure my religious upbringing has given me, and it makes me a better, more ethical scientist.
"The trouble with all the religious folks, is the trouble. If you were to wipe out all the athiests in the world, you'd lose 97% of the worlds scientists that do "gods work""
On the other hand, ◦Science not equal to atheist said:
"Got news for you fellow, scientists come from all faiths. I've worked with Jewish, Muslim and Christian scientists. I'd say less than 25% of American scientists are atheists."
If one of them could give here a link to back-up their claim, we could surely determine who is the official PIECE of CRAP!
How will we feel the pain of hellfire if we're dead? Pain is just nerve endings suggesting you move away from danger. Will God be giving us some other sort of pain register system that works without nerve endings?
Ask the old guy in Rome with the pointy white hat and the bullet-proof rickshaw.
Why can't I live to be 900 years oll too? I don't smoke!
Yopu wouldn't want to...the rigor mortis sets in after a mere 700 years.
I feel sorry for the atheists...what do they celebrate? Pajama day?... or for the darwinian dimwit who believes that out of an explosion some matter got stuck on a rock and it morphed into a reptile and then it crawled and became a dinosaur and through the process of time it became a monkey and then more magical time it became a person... I just don't have enough faith to believe this fairytale....i might as well believe in big foot or the toothfairy.
Just because you can't understand it, doesn't mean it isn't real. Quantum Mechanics is WAY weirder and more complex than, say, evolution (though I like how you threw the big bang in there – separate theories, dude), but you won't really hear any religious nuts complaining about the exact same process that gives us QM because it doesn't conflict with their ancient mythology.
Magic and dust is much more plausible.
It's an observed fact that bits of matter and anti-matter bubble out of NOTHING and then annihilate each other back to nothing. If you say there must have been a God to create what's around us, then your stuck with basically the same question of who or what created God; an infinite regression. I wouldn't be so quick to call people dimwits. You clearly are not well informed about evolutionary theory.
While I am celebrating life have fun creating more fantasy fairy tales in the likes of Santa Clause, Jesus, God, Mohammed or whatever you can think of to try and trick children into your oppressive world
"I just don't have enough faith to believe this fairytale." No, you dont have the education to beleive it. If you researched it, you would understand it. What you meant to say was "Im just lazy, so ill continue to have faith in my fairytale."
When you celebrate Xmas, I teach my children the truth and we celebrate the Winter Solstice. When you celebrate Easter I teach my children of the Norse Goddess Ostara/Eostre and we celebrate the coming Spring. All your little traditions are rooted in older celebrations of the natural world.
Magic is magic, you have faith in the magical tales of dead men. If you apply the same scrutiny to your own writings of men who talk about Gods,that you do evolution, then you would be Agnostic. However I am guessing your bias does not allow you to see this.
You obviouisly have a poor understanding of evolution. Did you never take a science course? Evolutionary science says none of those things you claim. But that's OK, just keep believing the world was created in 6 days a mere 8000 years ago. Enjoy your bliss. Now go outside and play, and don't bother yourself with profound questions or try to keep up with the adults.
What is it to you anyway?
Why feel sorry for me? What is it to you anyway what I celebrate. I feel sorry for you that you need fairy tales to feel better.
Riiiiiiight..... Like the whole talking snake, burning bush, virgin birth, walk on water, coming back to life, Jonah spending 3 days in a "large fish", water to wine thing is much more believable. Oh yeah the earth is only 5000 years old.... Can't forget that one.
Ummm, any of you evolutionist/darwinists ever take a snapshot of mankind and thought about how us humans barely got to the moon, nor can we explain this world and all that is in it? No, thanks but even after looking at evolution seriously there are still huge gaping holes in the fossil records. And the science can really be taken any way you like....that is it proves there is or isn't a God. Guess while the jury is out I'll stick with God's side and not forfiet the possibility of eternity.
Riiiiiiight..... Like the whole talking snake, burning bush, virgin birth, walk on water, coming back to life, Jonah spending 3 days in a "large fish", water to wine thing is much more believable. Oh yeah the earth is only 5000 years old.... Can't forget that one.
At some point freedom of religion will become outdated and we will get them the help they need to join reality and cope with the "real world".
Celebrate the simple joy found in each day... it is unecessary to have a religious event to cause a celebration.
P.S. Most Christian Holidays were created in order to give conquered people's replacement ceremonies/celebrations. When the Christian's invaded and forced everyone to convert they found the hardest part of other cultures to destroy was these celebrations so they highjacked them and made them their own...
Christmas ... Winter Solstice (historically it is most likely Jesus was born in the spring according to other events taking place in the Bible at the time of Christ's birth and not December)...but hey lets celebrate in December so the Pegan's can continue to celebrate the Winter solstice with a Christian seal of approval...
Easter... Okay timeframe wise a little closer... Jesus was crusified around Passover according to the Bible... but Bunnies and Eggs? Pagens celebration of Spring, new life and Fertility...
Atheists celebrate most of the hoidays you celebrate plus several more you don't. We don't have to believe in fairy tales to enjoy time spent with family. The real dimwit believes the entire universe was created in 6,000 years and that humanity is the product of Adam and Eve and incest between their children.
Evolution is what scientists believe in. Creationism is what quack jobs, religiouis fundamentalists, and muslim terorrists believe in.
Science builds modern jet planes.
Religion flies them into buildings.
Engineers build airplanes. Science just bends its will to the way the money flows – and the belief that science and scientists are pure is just as wrong as people who believe that just because someone is a priest, minister or bishop that they or what they say is pure. Religion is the practice of faith... and although the two are related they are not the same thing – in today's age there is far more religion in the secular world than in most modern faith centered worlds. People who drive planes into buildings are evil. They are evil and religious. Religion is just a set of practices based upon a set of beliefs. Faith is belief in the unseen. 2000 years ago 12 men's faith in one man, Jesus Christ, changed the world forever – not because of thier religion but because of thier Faith. Religion is not bad, but because it can be twisted by man – it is subject to manipulation and perversion. The idea is to center yourself on faith and not on religion.
Religion is for fools but I like Christmas.
There just isn't enough time in the evolutionary chain to account for evolution to have occurred as science has postulated. No, thanks...I'll stick with the possibility that we are part of a higher intelligence known as God and that I have somewhere to go when I die pretty much because evolution is a by product of mankind and they haven't even ventured very far in the universe not have they even explained even the tiniest portions of the fossile records to support the diversity of life on this planet. Evolution is still a Theory until they have it all buttoned up...til then...just keep beating your chests like the gibbons you claim you're from.
And you come to this conclusion how? Cite a peer reviewed article or paper that would demonstrate that assertion, otherwise your just talking out of your ass.
The placebo effect of that way of thinking can be comforting to some, but not those of us who want to better understand the one world we live in.
If I believe your fairy tale, I should also give every other fairy tale equal time. I would rather spend my time on the truth.
Seems Jay is saying scientific concensus, Phds, scientists, facts be damned. He doesn't understand it and hence it must all be made up. On the one hand you have science and scientists. On the other hand, you have religion and its fanatics.
I'll stick with science thanks.
In my opinion, there's only ONE truly honest religious belief in the world (if you want to call it that) - agnosticism. But it has two sects, those who explicitly admit it to themselves and others, and those who are playing some comforting, collectively reinforced, sophisticated mental game with themselves (that includes atheists). Whether or not people are naturally inclined to be compassionate or committed to be rationally ethical is an entirely separate question independent of which of the 2 sects one belongs to.
Apatheism – after much reflection one determines religion to be of no consequence
After calling myself an agnostic for most of my life, I decided to start calling myself athiest, not because I "know" god does not exist, but because I "know" that those who claim to know that god does or does not exist can't have any true conviction in their beliefs. No human can "know" the answer to this question.
surely, you can believe something to be true without knowing for certain? atheists and theists alike should agree on this.
If you told me you bought bread at the store today, I'd probably believe you. Not because I have "faith" that what you told me is true even though I have no evidence, but because you and I don't have much invested in that comment.
On the other hand, if you told me you just saw someone rise from the dead, then I would require an immense amout of proof since the truth of you comment would have an effect on all of us. It would change biology forever!
The apostles did hang out with women, you dope. You haven't even read the book, obviously.
Been too busy reading factual material. Sorry.
"you dope"? How Christian of you.
Sorry but the Apostles pref the company of men. It is quite established.
How come the Apostles never hung out with women? Hmmm....
It was a small gay community. Jesus loved them, bathed them and slept with them. Jesus was quite gay. God Bless
They did. Try reading the bible.
Hasidic Jews hunt down their own? Moslems do that, but I never heard that Jews do it. You're kidding.
You sound neither hot nor cold. Just lukewarm.
"Matt"...."Luke" warm. Now we just need to hit the "Mark" on the "John".
Matt wrote, "You sound neither hot nor cold. Just lukewarm."
On Monday, April 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm
Not All Docs Play Golf responded stating "Matt"...."Luke" warm. Now we just need to hit the "Mark" on the "John".
On, Monday, April 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm
"LOL,,,, RAOTFL" Good One Doc!
Do I still have to believe that a guy named Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a whale?
No you don't, and yet, what would it hurt? Pride maybe? Such pride among humanists need their leaves to be plucked off on accasions! Here, let me pluck out some of your dried up leaves,,,,,,,,,,, :-) :-( :-)
Yep. What would it hurt that the Bible contains some blatant nonsense?
There is nothing wrong with delusions. In fact lets let all the insane people out, really no difference between them and mythical minds.
Pipe-Dreamer can relate with the story. He spent 3 days trapped in the belly of a bull.
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