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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Limitless Spirituality of Atheism

I believe that what we call spirituality is a natural extension of recognizing (consciously or subconsciously) that we are all part of a larger whole. The laws of physics tell us that everything is interconnected; everything impacts everything else. Whether we realize it or not, we feel a physical connection with the earth, the air, the tree under our window and the stars a billion light years away - we feel it because it is PHYSICALLY there. When we are conscious of this feeling, it becomes the basis for our own atheist spirituality which informs our ethics, completely divorced from the imposed, politically motivated fairy tales of religion that seek to limit (and often contradict) the limitless world around us.

People are afraid to leave their religion for various reasons: some are afraid of being ostracized by their families and communities; some are terrified of losing the rigid rules that guide their lives and having to figure things out for themselves; and some simply can't imagine living a life devoid of spirituality. There's little we can do about people's fear of personal responsibility. But we can do something about the fear of ostracism by offering religious people a welcoming, loving community on the other side of the divide. And most importantly, we can do something about the erroneous belief that without religion, a person's life is empty, lonely and full of fear. It is exactly the opposite - and it is up to us to say that. When we discuss atheism with religious people, I think it is important that we talk about this atheist spirituality based on provable, observable laws of physics, and impress upon them the awe and joy we feel - not towards an impossible and often malicious entity, but towards EVERYTHING, without limits, without conditions, and without demands.

We could use a word of our own, an atheist version of "spirituality" - or we can just feel the sense of awe and connection implied by the word without the need to label it. However, when we are talking to religious people, I do think we need to use terminology that is familiar to them. When we're dealing with people's fears that an absence of religion equals an empty, lonely, miserable life, the word "spirituality," I think, goes right to the core of their fears.

Religion claims that it is the source of that awe and connection - and I think the key to wrestling control away from religion is exactly this: showing, by concrete example, that these feelings not only don't originate in religion, but can be stronger without it when divorced from the fear and shame of religion.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Emma Rosenthal Tells It Like It Is

Over the years, I've had many conversations with Jews and Gentiles, Zionists and anti-Semites, family members and strangers, trying to explain the -Zionist Jew phenomenon . The suggestion of our mere existence is often met with more disbelief than that of the Sasquatch.

But we do, indeed, exist. (The jury is still out on the Sasquatch - he might want to consider starting a blog.) Our existence is inconvenient, both to the anti-Semites who want to pretend all Jews think and act alike, and to the Zionists who want to do the same. What's more, our ranks seem to be growing. The more the Israeli government and Zionist organizations all over the world push to stifle criticism of their deplorable ideology and murderous actions, the more people push back.

Writer, teacher and human rights activist Emma Rosenthal formulates the reasons she is not a Zionist better than I ever could. She says:

I am not a Zionist because I believe in universal human rights and do not believe that the establishment of one more elite leadership based on nationalism, will bring about a more just world. I believe with all my being that an injustice to one is an injustice to all, that when one is oppressed, with each drop of blood that is shed, with each aspiration that is quashed, each of us is diminished in our capacities, each of us becomes more unsafe.

Read the rest of her excellent article Open Letter: Re: jewbitch ur a mental case? at Emma's Room.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Royal Shakespeare Company's HAMLET

I've been CRAVING the Royal Shakespeare Company's Hamlet... We've watched it 3 times now, and I can't wait to see it again. I've seen tons of Hamlet productions which I loved - but with this one, I actually RELATE, truly and fully. This Hamlet is not mopy, a gentle soul done wrong - he's a sarcastic, vicious, spoiled brat fully aware of his superiority. His story is not the story of weakness as much as it's a story of strength thwarted. And the bastard is FUNNY!

So if this, of all the countless stage and screen productions I've seen, is the one I relate to the most, what does it say about me?

I can't recommend this version highly enough. If you've never quite bought the hype around the play (like Kiran, who always found it pompous and boring, and is now completely and utterly in love with it), this production will convince you. And if you've loved Hamlet all along (like my mom, a theater connoisseur who was highly skeptical before seeing this version, only to call me at 4am after watching it, choking on her tears), it will convince you that there's always something new to be found, even in a play as over-performed as this.