Earlier today I brought my son to Hebrew school.
My daughter has a 103-degree fever, so it was just the two of us. The affair always kicks off with a half-hour service, and—because he was miserable and unhappy—I agreed to stay.
As we sat there, I repeatedly asked myself one question: Am I doing the right thing?
By “right thing,” I mean, am I subjecting him to moral fibre, or utter bullshit? Are the lessons he’s being taught important to a whole and decent life, or inane blatherings that have been repeated so often that they’re repeated so often? Hell, recently my boy explained to us how God lives on a cloud; how Noah lined up animals on his boat; how … how … stuff upon stuff that I am 100-percent certain is not true.
As I recently wrote in another post, last week the rabbi told us how the world is 5,773 years old. Everyone in the crowd listened (or pretended to listen) and nodded and prayed aloud when they were told to pray aloud. Of course, the world is not 5,773 years old. Or even close to 5,773 years old. The rabbi told us how God first created man. Again, there were these things called, ahem, dinosaurs.
I know I’m babbling. When it comes to religion, my mind is a ceaseless babble. On the one hand, guilt keeps me from completely abandoning the synagogue. I’ll fast on Yom Kippur; sit in synagogue while my stomach grumbles, trying to pay attention. On the other hand, I hate organized religion. I really, really do. I believe, strongly, that we’re born, we live, we die. Is there an afterlife? Probably not. But even if there is, I highly doubt it has anything to do with how much Jim gives his temple, or whether Bob has accepted Jesus as his lord and savior. I look at all the wars and all the conflicts and think, first and foremost, “Religion. Would this happen without religion?”
The answer is almost always the same: No.
The problem … well, there are many problems. But I think it all stems from the lemming factor. Namely, we are lemmings. We follow before we think; generally with an indifferent happiness. We like being told what to ponder and believe, even if it’s largely fiction. Why? Because it keeps us comfortable and secure and relatively happy. There’s a great void of darkness that probably awaits us all, and no one (myself included) likes to think about it. Death sucks, because it marks a completion of existence. No happy cloud. No sunny mornings. No hugs or kissing. Just—nothing.
So we turn toward answers. Any answers. We’ve been doing it for centuries, which results in the traditions we have before us. We can say, “This has been done forever,” and the translation is, “It must be right, because it dates back hundreds of years.” But, what goes unsaid, is that hundreds of years ago people were just as clueless as we are today.
So there I sat, with my son, listening to apparent nonsense.