I am a free agent

Tonight, while eating dinner at a Japanese Steakhouse (long story), I had a lengthy discussion with my mother in law. She’s a relatively religious Jew, and I’m a relatively unreligious Jew. My family recently joined the local synagogue, but primarly for the sake of our kids. Do I plan on becoming a regular at temple? Unlikely.

In fact, to some degree the synagogue might have the opposite impact. Generally speaking, the closer I come to actual Judaic activity, the less interested I am. I sit there, relatively bored, watching those around me recite the same mindless lines over and over. Are they even thinking about the depth behind the words? I doubt it. It all tends to make me angry—do these people even believe in God, or are they here because of pressure? Because of guilt? Because of mindless adherence to tradition?

I digress. As we spoke and debated, I told my mother in law that religion should be like the search for a college. At an age when we’re relatively mature and aware, we’re presented with a handful of pamphlets.

JEWISH: CHEAP DATE.

CATHOLICISM: TOUCHING.

MORMON: MITT ROMNEY AND YOU—PERFECT TOGETHER.

A person could read, study, debate—then make a well-informed decision. Being serious, it makes perfect sense. Why should we be born into faith, when it means so much? Why do so few of us decide on our own?

Hence, I am officially a free agent. Muslims—woo me. Baptists—bring the heat. Catholics—well, you don’t really have a shot. But try, dammit. Try!

I’m all ears.  🙂

15 thoughts on “I am a free agent”

  1. As a recovering Pentecostal who does not have much use for organized religion (i.e. going to church at weekly proscribed times), I’ve made peace with my faith as something I work out for myself. I hear and feel God – but rarely in church settings. When I am in relationship (key words here:in relationship) with the homeless, I see God. Hope that makes sense.

  2. You are pretty judgmental about the thoughts and feelings of millions of people you don’t know. Why not struggle with your own religion without putting other people’s faith down. you don’t KNOW the reasons other people go to temple or church. Maybe it isn’t as “mindless” as you think. Maybe YOU feel guilty or pressure, but that doesn’t speak to the entire world of religious people. You insult people with faith.

  3. Great post. Can I send you a book? I am not a muslim, catholic, or baptist, but guess I’ll give it a shot. Four questions you need to ask yourself (which may help on your quest):
    -where did I come from?
    -why am I here?
    -is there right and wrong?
    -where am I going?

    Perhaps it’d be worth sitting down and answering those four questions for yourself. How would you answer them?

  4. Now you’re starting to follow my path.

    1. Atheist – Never gave religion much thought. Bunch of hypocritical crap.

    2. Got stoned – Realized maybe there was some kind of alternate reality.

    3. Studied Spiritualism relating to drugs. – “Teachings of Don Juan” lead to eating peyote buttons. Wasn’t enlightened, but I did trip a bit.

    4. Girl (stunning beauty) comes to door and asks me to try something. Think of 3 things I want (nothing extravagant) something I was missing or needing. Repeat a certain chant and see if I get them. Be sincere. – Chanted and thought about my three.
    All three came to be. I was short rent, tax return arrived. Couldn’t find something important, open drawer I had looked in several times and it was there. Can’t remember #3 but it was equally surprising. My immediate thought was, God doesn’t buy us.

    5. Read about Edgar Cayce – Began to see reincarnation as a plausible viewpoint.

    6. Began to study other teachings. – Paramahansa Yogananda, Manly Palmer Hall, Summit Lighthouse, Madame Blavatsky and CW Leadbeater, and on and on and on.

    I left a few people and paths out but I was a firm believer in reincarnation for many years.
    One thing I noticed from pretty much all, they often disagreed with each other.
    As an example, supposedly they could see auras and the colors of them. One teacher would teach some color to be a high color another would teach it was corrupt.
    One thing they all did, the Jews, Christians, and Muslims too, they all referenced the bible as Gods work or at least a Holy book. Everyone quotes the bible. Usually they tried to teach that it had been altered and only they could teach truth.
    I figured it would be better to pass the middleman.

    7. Decided to read the bible. – Didn’t want to be influenced (although I was certain reincarnation was taught there) so I decided to read it on my own, without guidance. I chose not to even look at the headings of the pages because I felt those were also teachings separate from the bible.
    I decided that if there was a God he could lead me. So before I read I sincerely prayed for his guidance. I didn’t know if Jesus was a false teacher, or God himself. I knew nothing but I was open to learn.
    I learned that all I had known and believed in the past was untrue. I have had to swallow a lot of pride.

    If you are really a Free Agent then you must also be free of all your preconceptions. If you sincerely seek him you just might find him.

    Time is running out, I suggest you get in gear. The fig tree has been in leaf for 62 years now. I would guess (yes guess) that Christ will return within the normal life span of someone born in 1948. Just a guess, but he does say the end is near.

  5. I adhere to the faith implicit in your illustration. I believe in dog. Never let me down yet.

    But my creed extends only to Basset Hounds and Great Danes. The infidel yippypup shown here is unworthy of life, and all who favor it face a future entirely bereft of any numbers of virgins to deflower.

    Then again, not to say I personally ever have or haven’t deflowered one or 72 virgins in this life or beyond, but wouldn’t that be an awful lot of emotional baggage to take on just to get your rocks off? Might al-Qaeda not get better results promising each recruit a week at the Mustang Ranch?

  6. I have almost instantly repented of my snarky post above. I do respect the faiths of my family, friends and community members, though they drive me nuts pretty regularly in Nashville.

    In all seriousness, Jeff, I find the pervasive Christian culture in which I live a moral inspiration. I consider the example of Jesus Christ, as far as we know it through credible historical accounts, to be a narrative worthy of respect, close attention and emulation. (I just feel rather lonely in taking his gospel seriously, amid so many hatemongers.) If I lived in a culture more influenced by the examples of Islam’s prophet, Moses, Maimonides or Buddha, I would probably feel the same influence from them.

    I don’t believe there is a deity who cares what we do or believe, but I see plenty of empirical evidence that a few great teachers have walked the earth and created faith traditions worthy of respect and attention.

  7. Pretty much knew you weren’t a free agent, but that is where you need to start.
    Free from all conceptions and prejudices.
    An open book willing to be lead by truth.

  8. Jeff,
    Great post. I saw a book the other day called God is not one. Kind of a comparative religion book. I have not had a chance to read but it looked good.
    Landy

  9. I’d like to recommend a book by G.K. Chesterton, a prolific early 20th century English author who was sort of the Jeff Pearlman of his day — he wrote a weekly column for the London News for about 30 years, on everything from politics to faith to education to history to art, and was well known for his sharp-witted critiques of his contemporaries.

    Chesterton, in his 1908 book “Orthodoxy,” writes that as a younger man, he laughed off the Christian faith in which he was raised, and was, in fact, so self-indulgent that he set about creating his own religion. “I did try to found a heresy of my own,” he writes in the book’s introduction, “and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.”

    The full text of the book is available to download (for free!) at Project Gutenberg:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/130

  10. The main point here that I like the most is that we should all be treating our children as free agents, letting them ultimately make the decision for themselves. Just because you teach a child that Jesus died for his sins, or that it is right and proper to always have a head covering, or that God put lobsters on this planet but doesn’t want you to eat them… just because you raise a child to believe any of that nonsense doesn’t make it true.

    Let the kid figure it out for her/himself.

  11. Jeff would you consider being traded by doubt to truth? Or perhaps belief? “its relative to the individual”, isn’t that an objective statement in itself? Just sayin’….

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