Religion and Its Cultured Despisers

Samain and the Choice Moon

Sunday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers. Tara. The Mikvah. Shema Yisrael. Adonai eloheynu. Adonai echad. Prayerful humility. Being a new Jew. The Sabbath. Jacob wrestling at the Jabbok Ford. Zornberg. Great Sol lighting up the Snow on the Lodgepole Branches. A crisp, clear and blue Sky. The Iliad. The Jacob cycle in Genesis. Israel. Me. Soon anyhow. In shallah. All the Dogs. And their human companions. Wild Neighbors.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Books

One brief shining: Read an article yesterday about increasing nones, yes nones not nuns, in particular among Millennials and younger, which prodded me to remember Friedrich Schleiermacher and his book, Religion and Its Cultured Despisers, then to wonder why I, a man almost as far away generationally as possible from the new nones, chose to embrace a religion while others flee them.


No. This is not a question of doubt about my choice. It’s firm and almost ritualized. Tuesday. It’s about those cycles of history when certain institutions get shunned, disbelieved, set aside as archaic, over with. It’s about me and my choices over a lifetime and why I’ve made them. Mostly though its about religion and those who would be nones. Not relevant to those who would be nuns.

Three times I have rejected institutional religion. The first. After studying philosophy and finding Christianity’s arguments dissolved in the acids of logic. The second. After finding Christianity’s claims dissolved through love of my son. The third. After finding liberal religion, Unitarian-Universalism, had no there there for me. At that point I turned to the Soil, to the Bees, to heirloom Tomatoes, to Rhizomes and Bulbs, to Kate, to Dogs, to Great Sol and the Great Wheel. Became a pagan.

On Tuesday I’ll make my fourth teshuva, return, to an organized old religious tradition. You could look at this and say why can’t he make up his mind? I mean, geez. Really? Fair enough. Although as I look at this pattern, I see something different. I see a man who could not let go of a search for the sacred, the holy. Who was not satisfied. But also one who kept his heart and mind and soul open, willing to learn, to see what he was looking at.

Could I have gone on to my death as a pagan, devoted to the Soil and my Wild Neighbors, to the Great Mother who birthed us all and to whom we return? Yes. I could have. That’s why my pagan heart will still guide much of my search for the sacred and the holy. I will not stop listening to the Mule Deer, the Elk Bull, the crashing Waters of a Spring Maxwell Creek. I will not stop seeing the holiness in Black Mountain or in the wide Pacific or in Great Sol.

Yet my heart, which guides me now more than my mind, could not escape this. I find the sacred, the holy, the divine, in other humans too. And so many of those humans: Alan, Tara, Susan, Joan, Jamie, Ellen, Dick, Ron, Rich, Cheri, Marilyn, Irv, Veronica, Mark, Lauren, Karen, Sally, Nancy, Ruth, Gabe, Kate of blessed memory, Leslie, Rebecca, Anne, Luke, Tal, Iris, Jamie Bernstein, Stephen, yes all of these and more I know but not well, are all Jewish. When I walk into the sanctuary for a service, it is my friends who make it holy. And my heart, this insistent and stubborn heart/mind-my lev said follow them further.

Not only that. But, thanks to Kate, eight years of holidays, learnings, immersion in the Jewish world. Of seeing how dogma simply does not exist in a Reconstructionist Jewish frame. That these folks are seekers, searchers too. And willing to investigate, rethink, reimagine. Everything. Yet to still celebrate that search in a three-thousand year old vessel which carries great wisdom about how to be human. In other words, how to be sacred.

I know. I admit I’m drawn to the prayers, to the rituals, to the careful and unusual hermeneutic of Torah study. That I find comfort and even solace in them. That’s the monk in me. Yet the pagan, the pilgrim still on the path finds food here, too. I am not alone in my insistence on finding the sacred and the holy in the Mountains, the Streams, the Black Bears and Mountains Lions. I am also not alone in finding the wisdom of the Rabbi’s, of the authors whoever they were of the Torah, of the whole Tanakh, a living stream, one way of seeing not only what I’m looking at but what I’m looking for.